We Rank IndyCar’s Greatest Drivers of All Time
Andretti, Foyt, Dixon, Unser—the gang’s all here.
Imagine the five most successful IndyCar drivers of all time sitting at the same dinner table. These guys are so competitive, they’d race each other through their entrees. Andretti is working his pork chop, really moving!…Foyt is next to him scooping potatoes…just look at him work that salt shaker! It may all sound like a joke, but this dinner is really about to happen.
This coming Wednesday, April 13, the five drivers with the most all-time IndyCar wins will gather for “An Evening with Legends” event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, which is itself a legend. While the event is invite-only, we can all participate in this conversation. Who is the G.O.A.T.—the greatest of all time? Take a closer look here (noting that total wins listed are an amalgamation of victories in open wheel series considered IndyCar or equivalent), then vote on this story’s Facebook post.
4th (tie): Scott Dixon (39 wins)
The only current driver on our list (competing for Target Chip Ganassi Racing) hails from New Zealand, and just tied for fourth in all-time victories at last weekend’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. The “Ice Man” holds the distinction of having won his very first IndyCar race, at Homestead-Miami on March 2, 2003. He was also nice enough to stop by our offices recently. The defending IndyCar champion, age 35, is certainly the top driver of our era in this series. IndyCar championships: 4. Indy 500 wins: 1 (2008).
4th (tie): Al Unser (39 wins)
Few racing families—if any—can compete with the Unsers. Al’s older brother Bobby won the Indy 500 three times, and his son Al Jr. won it twice. Six Unsers have started the Indy 500. None of the Unsers has won more than Al Sr., who once claimed 10 out of 18 races in one year in Champ Car (1970, his most successful year). Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Unser competed for 30 years professionally before hanging it up in 1994, just before that year’s Indy 500, which fell on his 55th birthday. Indy 500 wins: 4 (1970, 1971, 1978 1987). Only two other drivers have matched that mark of four wins. One is Rick Mears, the other is listed somwhere below.
3rd: Michael Andretti (42 wins)
It couldn’t have been easy being Mario’s oldest son. Talk about expectations. But Michael won enough to claim third all time on this wins list, in a career spanning from 1983 to 2007. All time, he’s fifth in starts (317), sixth in poles (32), third in top three finishes (100), and third in laps led (6,607). He also is the last American to podium in Formula 1 (1993, teammates with Ayrton Senna). That’s a whole lot of miles. But Michael is also known for his bad luck, if you can call it that, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In his 16 Indy 500 starts, he led the race nine times, for a total of 431 laps—and never won it. Not until he was a team owner, that is.
2nd: Mario Andretti (52 wins)
We can’t think of a single other American athlete so recognizable by his first name, all over the world, through all of history. Born in Italy, raised for some time in a refugee camp, Andretti came to America and kicked ass. Four time IndyCar National Champ (1965, 1966, 1969, 1984), Daytona 500 winner (1967), Indy 500 winner (1969), three time Indy 500 pole winner (1966, 1967, 1987), national dirt track champ, Sebring winner, the Associated press “Driver of the Century.” Andretti is also the last American to win the Formula 1 world championship, in 1978. Wanna pick a winner in this field? Mario’s tough to beat.
1st: A.J. Foyt (67 wins)
After all these years, A.J. Foyt is still America’s toughest S.O.B. For 10 reasons why, click here. Foyt won the Indy 500 four times, the most all time tied with Al Unser and Rick Mears. He’s the only driver to start 35 consecutive Indy 500s; the only to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans; and the only to win seven IndyCar national titles. Foyt was also named Associated Press “Driver of the Century” along with Andretti (the two tied in votes for this honor). Like Mario, Foyt won hundreds of races in all kinds of machinery, from Nascar to open wheel to dirt track, in an era of shocking violence in motorsport. All of which leaves you with a big decision, doesn’t it?
Vote for your winner here.